“This week NY Arts caught up with two of the world’s leading contemporary art advisers, Nicolai and Michael Frahm. The brothers, originally from Copenhagen but now based in London, have collaborated with some of the highest profile artists of our time and advise prolific collectors and new collectors from all over the world. They spend over 200 days a year traveling to every corner of the globe to see new works, discover upcoming talent, track down masterpieces, and spot emerging trends…In short, they eat, sleep and breathe art.”
“Art has become the ultimate status symbol and culture has no price tag.”
Rachel Fraser & Jason Stopa
This week NY Arts caught up with two of the world’s leading contemporary art advisers, Nicolai and Michael Frahm. The brothers, originally from Copenhagen but now based in London, have collaborated with some of the highest profile artists of our time and advise prolific collectors and new collectors from all over the world. They spend over 200 days a year traveling to every corner of the globe to see new works, discover upcoming talent, track down masterpieces, and spot emerging trends…In short, they eat, sleep and breathe art. NY ARTS: When and how did your interest in contemporary art begin?
Michael Fram: Our interest began as young kids. We were born with a passion for the arts and an eager spirit to see and experience visually stimulating things. Our father, Flemming, started collecting contemporary art back in the ’60s with a vision to build an art foundation, which he later opened to the public in the mid ’90s in Copenhagen. The main part of the collection was post-war European abstract paintings with a heavy emphasis on CoBrA art. Nicolai Frahm: We traveled a lot as a family and part of the schedule was always to visit museums and galleries around the world, as well as sitting in on auctions in London and New York.
NY ARTS: Do you have an early memory of a piece of art or artist that inspired you?
MF: Absolutely! There are many to choose from but I’ll give you one: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 from 1912. I saw it as a young kid in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and I remember looking at it and being mystified by the form, movement, motion, and the energy of the body depicted in the painting. It is very complex with its dark outline of colors, harsh angles, and perpetual movement; yet it’s extremely beautiful and fascinating. I also love it because it had the uniqueness to challenge the status quo!
NY ARTS: Do you have a specialist subject within the contemporary art sector? NF: I was a specialist at Christie’s in Post-War and Contemporary European and American art, and that is still my forte, but I am also heavily involved in Chinese, Indian, and South American art.
MF: Yes, I did my Masters with Sotheby’s Institute specializing in Chinese contemporary art. I spend a lot of time in Asia and I love traveling the world discovering new talents. Maybe you should join me on my next trip to Indonesia, I’m going to visit an amazing artist we found….
NY ARTS: Do you have a favorite new or up-and-coming artist?
MF: Well, we follow and constantly look for new and exciting artists. We don’t have ONE favorite—we have many we like. Berlin-based artist Thilo Heinzmann is one of them. In his minimal paintings for instance, he carefully places dashes of pure pigment onto the canvas, which is covered in white textured oil paint. Every detail is contemplated, and he chooses the materials with great confidence and executes with extreme precision. We love the fact that he is examining the endless opportunities in painting. The result is simply beautiful: minimal yet very complex.
NF: Watch out for Rashid Johnson and Tomas Saraceno: they are going from strength to strength.
NY ARTS: What advice would you give to collectors looking to build a contemporary art collection? If you could share one pearl of wisdom, what would it be?
NF: Better to buy 10 masterpieces than 1,000 mediocre works.
MF: Find the “red thread” in the collection, don’t lose focus, and work with top specialists—otherwise it is a jungle out there.
NY ARTS: What sets you apart as art advisors?
NF: We take responsibility for the judgment on art we pass onto the collectors we work with. We do that because we trust our intuition, experience, and knowledge, and we believe that we have the eye to do so. We live through these collections as if they were our own, and only acquire works that fit perfectly into those collections.
MF: There are many people out there with a business card saying “advisor.” Our first advice is to watch out for them and in most cases stay away! Nine out of ten “advisors” don’t have the expertise or the educational background to qualify for giving any advice. They are interested in quick sales and building collections fast. Great collections take time, commitment and love to build. We live and breathe art. We travel more than 200 days a year to see and experience it, which means we are not tied down to one place. Art is not our job—it is our passion.
NY ARTS: That is an important point. There are many people who wish only to capitalize on a free market without any concern for culture. What is the most controversial artwork you ever bought?
NF: A few years ago we bought a neon light installation by the American artist Jason Rhoades for a major collector. It was amazing! It was basically a square metal structure completely covered in words made out of neon tubes where the viewer could sit inside on a velvet bench. The problem came once the collector installed it in his museum and a mother with 3 kids was sitting there enjoying it. After about 5 minutes the mother came running out screaming and shouting and threatening a lawsuit for obscenity. The neon words were all slang words for “vagina”!
NY ARTS: You travel a lot with your work. Where’s the most exciting place right now in terms of the contemporary art scene, and why?
NF: New York for me is still the most happening scene. Everyday and everywhere there is something new and exciting going on around the city, one could probably go on a nonstop 24/7 art tour. But… with all money and people floating in from Asia, the Middle East, and Russia I am voting for London to become the future center of the art world. Michael is giving me the evil eye; it is a hot topic during our morning coffee! NY ARTS: Where do you think the contemporary art market is heading?
MF: I’m certain that we will witness the billion-dollar artwork sold in our lifetime. That view sums up where I think the market is heading long-term. Art is in demand as never before. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the masterpieces. The people who already own masterpieces want more, the people who don’t are desperate to get them. Art has become the ultimate status symbol and culture has no price tag. NF: Our job is to predict art history and create collections for the future. But no matter how much you think you know and how much you think you are on track, you never know what comes next, and that’s the excitement I love about it!